On a recent hike through the Utah wilderness, Denise Peterson noticed something that took her breath away.
There, perched on a rock across a ravine, was a majestic young mountain lion, sunning herself and gazing over the large expanse.
“She was sitting out in the open on the hillside looking down into the valley,” Peterson told The Dodo.
Using a spotting scope she had on hand, Peterson got a better look at the lion. For the next three and a half hours, Peterson enjoyed from a distance as the beautiful animal went about her day. She watched as the lion sunbathed and as she practiced her hunting skills. Since she was a younger cat, Peterson assumed she was waiting for her mother to return.
While this is the eleventh mountain lion Peterson has seen in the wild, the experience still proved to be just as magical — especially considering how much time she got to spend watching her.
“I was absolutely elated,” Peterson said. “Most sightings are quite brief, so it was nice to have some time with her.”
Peterson also noted how peacefully the lion coexisted with hikers and runners zipping up and down a nearby trail, most of whom never noticed the huge animal nearby. Though many believe these big cats are scary, Peterson knows that’s not the case.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about [mountain lions], and it is often thought that they are aggressive,” Peterson said. “Mountain lions, however, are very conflict averse and will typically run when they feel threatened.”
As she watched the young cat head further into the mountains and eventually out of sight, Peterson was so grateful to have spent such a wonderful afternoon with her and was excited to tell others about it.
“Watching her inspired me to share the experience with others, as so few people will ever get to see one in the wild,” Peterson said. “It was a good opportunity to share a positive experience with a wild cat that is typically so misunderstood.”